Become a Modern Confessor
The Church speaks often about the importance of Holy Confession. You read it here as much as any topic we discuss. Did you know that a ‘Confessor’ has nothing to do with the sacraments of Holy Confession? It is a ‘title’ given to certain saints of the Church, and you may not know what it means.
Today is the Feast of Saint Emilianos the Confessor and Bishop of Kyzikos. He lived during the time of the war over Holy Icons. You can read a short explanation of his life here. In his defense of Holy Icons he was tortured but not killed. When a saint was left maimed ‘as a witness to others’ the Church named the confessors. Their scars confessed their faith and inspired others.
So, why bring up confessors today? Besides that commemoration, as part of our commitment to feature saints this year, I wanted us to consider if we would be willing to be confessors? Would we be willing to be tortured? Thankfully, that is not likely any time soon in America. It is true in other parts of the world. In America we are invited to a different sort of torture.
With schools coming back into session this month, and our college students returning to classes, I remember the battle over our young people for the sake of their faith and the Church. In our host parish, as in many other Orthodox Churches, we annually bless the children to return to school. There is a reason I fear most do not understand about this blessing. Here is the text of the prayer we read in Tarpon Springs.
O Lord our God and Creator, who has honored us men and women with Your own image; who has taught Your elect, so that most wise are they who give heed to Your teaching; who reveals wisdom unto babes; who has imparted Your teaching unto Solomon and unto all who have sought Your wisdom: Open the hearts, the minds, and the lips of these Your servants, that they may receive the power of the law, and successfully apprehend the useful precepts which shall be taught them, to the glory of Your All-Holy Name, to the profit and building up of Your Holy Church, and that they may understand Your good and perfect will. Deliver them from every hostile oppression; preserve them in Orthodoxy and the Faith, and in all uprightness and purity all the days of their life, that they may advance in wisdom, and in the fulfilling of Your commandments: that, being thus prepared, they may glorify Your All-Holy Name, and become heirs of Your Kingdom. For You are God mighty in mercy, and gracious in strength; and unto You is due glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages
Prayer for the Beginning of the School Year
I invite you to study this prayer and pray it often for your children and the young people of the Church. Pay attention to two important phrases, “useful precepts which shall be taught,” and “the building up of Your Church.” This is where we become confessors to the faith of others. When we stand up against precepts that do not build up the Church we will be ridiculed and emotionally tortured, maybe even ‘blackballed’ by society.
Remember our young people do not lose their faith with they learn 2+2=4. They lose their faith when their teachers tell them their Church is outdated and hateful. They lose their faith when professional educators tell them their Church is wrong about moral standards. Most importantly they lose their faith when parents and Church leaders who supposedly care about them do not stand up for “useful precepts….for the building up of the Church.”
The Church is filled with examples of holy men and women who stood up for the truth of God’s morals and way of life. Saint Emilianos is just one example for us today. Maybe it is time we give our young people our life as examples and become modern confessors.